Wilmette, Sports

Fired NU football coach — a Loyola Academy parent — to assist Ramblers

Pat Fitzgerald is back on a local football field.

The recently ousted Northwestern University head coach is volunteering with high school football power and Wilmette institution Loyola Academy, the school confirmed on Thursday, Aug. 17. The Ramblers are the reigning state champions in IHSA’s top division (Class 8A), and Fitzgerald is a parent to two current Loyola students, including a varsity football player, and one alumnus.

Loyola Academy released a statement that says Fitzgerald, a Northfield resident, underwent training, completed a background check and signed a code of conduct agreement to meet the school’s coaching and volunteering requirements.

First-year Ramblers coach Beau Desherow declined to comment outside of the school’s statement, and it is unclear if or how often Fitzgerald will work with the program’s student-athletes.

According to the statement, “Supporting (Desherow) are many assistant coaches as well as parent volunteers, who provide an invaluable service to all of our athletic teams — indeed, our entire Loyola community — assisting with gameday management, logistics, offering fresh insight, etc. Among other volunteers, current parent Pat Fitzgerald (parent of a 2023, ’25 and ’27 graduate) will serve as a volunteer for the football program.”

After 18 seasons helming the Northwestern Wildcats, Fitzgerald was fired in July in response to disturbing hazing allegations made against NU’s football program that were first detailed in reporting by The Daily Northwestern.

Players and coaches across several Wildcats football teams have alleged a dangerous culture that enabled sexualized and ritualistic hazing. Some of the allegations implicated Fitzgerald directly for his alleged knowledge of the reported hazing, and he is named in at least two lawsuits filed in July related to the scandal.

Fitzgerald’s attorney, Dan Webb, said in a response to one lawsuit that “Nothing in the … complaint or in (the) press conferences contradicts in any way the conclusion of the in-depth, time intensive and independent investigation led by ArentFox Schiff (in July). Namely, that Coach Fitzgerald had no knowledge of any form of hazing within the Northwestern football program.”

Loyola Academy has become the preeminent preps football program in Illinois. Over the last 17 seasons, all under former coach John Holecek, the Ramblers averaged 10.9 wins per season, won nine league titles and made seven state-championship games, winning three of them (2015, 2018, 2022). Over the past three seasons, Loyola is 31-2, including perfect regular seasons in 2020 (6 games) and 2021.

Desherow is a 1993 Loyola alumnus who coached with the Ramblers for 15 years (2004-2019). He was selected as the program’s next head coach following Holecek’s departure.

Fitzgerald has long been an ally of Loyola Academy, which is within five miles of NU’s Ryan Field and even closer to his Northfield home. His older son, Jack Fitzgerald, was a tight end on last season’s state championship team and was the valedictorian of his graduating class. Younger brother Ryan Fitzgerald is a junior, multisport student-athlete for the Ramblers who is poised to begin the season as the varsity football team’s starting quarterback, Desherow said.

The Record will publish a preview of the 2023 Loyola Ramblers on Friday, Aug. 18.

“Coach Desherow is laser-focused on the season ahead, which starts with the Ramblers’ first matchup vs. Catholic Central High School (Michigan) on Saturday, August 26,” the school’s statement says.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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